A political party represented in Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership on Friday became an associated member of a coalition of European parties seeking independence or greater self-rule for various regions across Europe.
The European Free Alliance (EFA) accepted the integration into its ranks of the Democratic Party of Artsakh (AZhK) at a meeting of its General Assembly held in Germany.
The move strongly criticized by Azerbaijan came less than a year after an EFA delegation paid a fact-finding visit to Karabakh. The head of delegation, Miguel Martinez, said after the trip that the EFA “looks forward to working closely with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the future.”
The EFA comprises around 40 parties mainly representing national ethnic minorities concentrated in various parts of over a dozen EU member states. Some of those parties, notably the Scottish National Party and the Republican Left of Catalonia, seek independence for their respective territories. The EFA holds 12 seats in the European Parliament where it has been championing the principle of peoples’ self-determination.
The Karabakh Armenians cite the same principle in the quest for an international recognition of their de facto secession from Azerbaijan. The AZhK leader, Ashot Ghulian, emphasized this fact when he addressed the EFA’s governing body before the approval of his party’s associated membership bid.
Ghulian, who is also the speaker of the Karabakh parliament, further stressed that the AZhK is the first Karabakh organization to be affiliated with a pan-European structure. The party controls 10 out of 33 seats in the Stepanakert legislature.
European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA), a Brussels-based advocacy group, was quick to commend the EFA’s decision. Lorenzo Ochoa, the EuFoA director, said the move shows that “Nagorno-Karabakh’s political development is in line with EU standards.”
The Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, condemned the European parties for forging links with a “regime created as a result of aggression, occupation and ethnic cleansing.” “Such an attitude by the alliance is disrespectful towards millions of [Azerbaijani] refuges and internally displaced people,” a ministry spokesman said, according to Azerbaijani news agencies.